The Kind Of People Who Divorce

I spent what felt like a hundred years wondering if I should divorce. I had a lot of questions and no answers. I knew I wasn’t happy but, really, wasn’t happiness overrated? I wondered: Were other married couples happy? Was that a thing? Maybe we’re all in silent cahoots slogging through the misery.

Truth is, people in good marriages begin their days making the unconscious, weightless decision to remain married. People in bad marriages begin and end their days in a conscious state of relentless tension and confusion. I know firsthand what it is to have your brain held captive by a never-abating drumbeat of sadness, anxiety, and unrest. Truly, I thought I’d go mad.

Should I stay? (No.)

Will things get better? (Definitely not.)

What are my options? (Few.)

Am I happy? (Hell no.)

Can he be happy? (No way.)

Is this normal? (Really?)

What should I do? (Get a divorce, dummy!)

I knew the answers but I ignored them. Instead, I’d say, “I’m not the kind of person who gets divorced.” And I believed that. So, for a long time, I didn’t. Instead, I prayed like hell.

Of course — how silly — there is no “kind of person” who divorces. I know that. You know that. But maybe I thought I was different somehow. I was a serious person. I wasn’t frivolous. I was a doer and a fighter. I would fight.

What I didn’t understand is that in order to fight for a marriage, there needs to be a marriage. When you fight for a marriage, you’re fighting for the glue — the connection, the intimacy, the love — of it. Or you’re fighting for the memory of that glue — if you’re lucky enough to remember where you put it.

But what if you simply can’t find it because you never had it in the first place? Or it left the building too long ago? Then, you must ask yourself— as I did, perhaps as you do — just what you’re fighting for exactly. The yearly Christmas card photo? That summer vacation on the Cape?  Of course, the kids. Always the kids. The very same offspring living and breathing their parents’ misery. (Because, you know, that kind of day-in-day-out toxicity is always optimal for their growth and development.)

Quick, think of an unhappily married couple you know. See how easy that was? And you don’t even need that couple to confess to their marital farce. You can smell the stench of their discontent a mile away. It’s hard to miss their edgy tones, their lack of playfulness, the conversational distance they keep. And the eye-rolling. Always the eye-rolling.

“No one will believe it when I tell them we’re divorcing,” a client said to me recently, explaining his hesitancy to make the announcement. To which I say, “I wouldn’t bet the house on that.”

My client thinks people will be surprised — as I did, perhaps as you do— because he’s such a family man. You know, the kind of person who doesn’t divorce.

Whatever my client thinks he’s hiding, I can almost guarantee he’s not doing it nearly as well as he thinks. He claims he’s holding back from divorcing to spare others the shock of it. But what he’s really avoiding is the shock of admitting to himself he’s the kind of person who gets divorced.

It is true, divorce forces you to look at the whole of your existence through a lens you thought you’d never need. And, as things come into focus, “I’m not that kind of person,  becomes, “Who knew? I just may be.”

But divorce? Really? You’re not lazy, uncaring, or irresponsible! So, how can it be you who is considering divorce? Of course that couple down the street is divorced because, well, they’re them. But you? You’re you. And last time you checked, you’re not that kind of people.

Years ago, a therapist asked me point-blank, “What the f*ck are you doing in this marriage, Abby?”

I didn’t have a good answer. I assume it was because I thought I wasn’t the kind of person not to be. I wasn’t the kind of person who would dismantle her life brick by brick. I wasn’t the kind of person who would saddle her kids with divorced parents.

But then, as it turned out, I was and I am. I am that kind of person because I knew I couldn’t be happy where I was. I am that kind of person because I wanted to show my kids it’s okay to want more. I am that kind of person because I chose health over heartache, strength over fear.

I am the kind of person who gets divorced (and did!) because I get to choose what kind of person I am — free of labels and judgment. And I’m proud to be that kind of person because I know the fortitude it takes to make such a monumental change.

Are you the kind of person who divorces? Perhaps you need look no further than your bathroom mirror. And maybe there, staring back at you, you’ll see that kind of person. The kind of person who deserves something better and damn well knows it: You.

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7 replies
  1. Reba Linker
    Reba Linker says:

    This is such an honest post. Divorce is such a hard experience and an agonizing decision to have to make. I think you really helped define when to call it quits: “But what if you simply can’t find it because you never had it in the first place? Or it left the building too long ago?”

    Reply
  2. Millen
    Millen says:

    Great post, Abby – honest and resonating on so many levels. I went thru the painful phases that you shared and it felt like a nightmare to leave my marriage of over 25 years… and yes, my daughter was a main consideration in my decision to wait… that’s why I love what you said “I am that kind of person because I wanted to show my kids it’s okay to want more. I am that kind of person because I chose health over heartache, strength over fear.” Yes, I AM THAT KIND OF PERSON. Than you again!

    Reply
    • abby rodman
      abby rodman says:

      So kind of you to write, Millen! Yes, it can feel like a nightmare when you’re going through it. Totally agree! I hope you’ve found the peace and satisfaction you need. Your daughter is lucky to have you! All the best in 2017.

      Reply
  3. Joyce Hansen
    Joyce Hansen says:

    Great insight here on how to deal with a difficult choice. I’ve heard friends say divorce is not an option and watch them channel their misery into all kinds of distractions – many of which are self-destructive. Agree, it’s better to face it with honesty and counseling. And, if divorce allows both parties to move on with their lives, then so be it.

    Reply
    • abby rodman
      abby rodman says:

      I’m totally with you, Joyce! Sadly, it’s always a difficult choice. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Much appreciated. Best of everything in 2017!

      Reply

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